I cringe a bit as I type the title for this entry. Is “No, LORD” even a thing?
Many times, I have heard teaching that such a response is an oxymoron. “No” and “LORD” just don’t go together. Most often it was in the context of preaching or teaching on Acts 10 where Peter, in a vision, is told by the Lord to kill and eat from a table set with unclean animals. To which Peter responds, “By no means, Lord” (ESV). “Not so, Lord!” (NKJV). “No, Lord” (CSB). The message was clear, you just don’t put those two words together.
Unless, perhaps, you are an intercessor.
This morning I am chewing on the thought that Moses, in effect, says “No, Lord.”
And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'” And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”
(Exodus 32:7-10 ESV)
Stiff-necked people defy a holy God. Disobedient people defile the image of God. What’s appropriate then? The wrath of God.
Judgment is the right response of a righteous God. Wrath is the reasonable reaction of a God who is jealous for His name with a perfect jealousy. Or, as Paul would put it centuries later, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).
But what could get in the way of a righteously wrathful God acting on His righteous wrath? An intercessor. Someone standing in the breach of a wayward people and a holy God. Someone like Moses. And so, God says, “Now therefore let Me alone.” To which Moses sort of says by his actions, “No, LORD.”
But Moses implored the LORD . . . (Exodus 32:11a ESV)
God said “Let Me alone.” Moses didn’t. Instead, Moses “pleaded” (NKJV) with the Lord on behalf of the people. He “interceded” (CSB) for them.
” . . . Turn from Your burning anger and relent from this disaster against Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.'” And the LORD relented from the disaster that He had spoken of bringing on His people.
(Exodus 32:12b-14 ESV)
God is unchanging in His nature and essence. Thus, God’s response to every situation is a consistent, perfect response without contradiction. Even when that response is relenting.
When people sin in defiance of God, God in His unchanging perfection is just in perfectly judging their rebellion. But equally true, when God is presented with an intercessor who intercedes on the basis of the glory of God’s name and the permanence of God’s promises, then for a gracious God to relent is also the perfect response.
When God told Moses, “Leave me alone” He knew Moses would say, “Not so, Lord!” For God knew before He ever promised a promise that the fulfilling of the promise would be dependent on a go-between to represent a people who would be a work-in-progress for a lifetime. One who would be more than their deliverer, but would also be their intercessor, as well. A foreshadow of the greater Intercessor who would not only deliver a people from the bondage of sin and death, but would live forever to plead their case, on the basis of His shed blood, and thus bring them into the fullness of promise. An Intercessor “able to save to the uttermost” (Heb. 7:25).
Moses didn’t leave God alone. And thus, he became an imperfect type of Jesus.
Jesus has promised never to leave us alone. And thus, “indeed is interceding for us” at the right hand of God (Rom. 8:34).
According to God’s grace. Forever for God’s glory.